The icon tells it all.
At this moment there are over 300.000 applications in the Apple App Store. New ones are shoveled in every day, and the competition is fierce. For any single need and requirement there are at least 10 Applications raising hands wanting to be picked from the mass. While browsing or searching the App store a single App gets its brief moment; when the user sees an icon and decides whether to tap it to see details, or not. Second or two – that's the timeframe an Icon has to draw attention.
In a typical use scenario users will see this list …
… and will either focus on the prettiest icon resembling what they are searching for, or will flick the list to see more results. If an icon gets a two second glance, it can be considered a well made icon. If users actually tap that App, the icon's designer can place it in the portfolio. From there, the icon's job is more or less done; it is now up to screenshots, description and App price to sell the App.
What this means is that today, more than ever in the history of software manufacturing, icon has the power to make or break the App. It forms the majority of customer's decision whether to even consider looking into details. App's icon is an equivalent of a front side game-box resting on a shelf – pushing the user into picking up the box to see the back for details. It does take a bit of an experience to be able to quickly deduce the quality of an App based on it's icon, but any App Shoper can do it easily after purchasing and comparing just a few Apps.
What can an icon tell you?
The Icon tells a tale, and it tells it pretty good.
- 1. It can tell you if the Designer understands basic design principles, such as whitespace, color theory, simplicity and information architecture,
- 2. It can tell you if the Designer understands pixels and the value of pixel precision in screen design.
- 3. It can tell you if the Project Manager understands the concept and necessity of final polish, user's behavior and overall aesthetics.
The quality of an App's icon is in direct proportion to the quality of an App because it reflects the experience of all the key people involved in the project. Bad color schemes, too much information crammed into an icon, lousy executed icon elements and other telltale signs mean you should steer away from that App.
In the Metronome example, try to spot the best and the most polished App by looking at icons.
This does not say that the other metronome Apps are bad. They do keep the beat and if you had eyes closed while just listening to the ticks they might do the trick. But once you see them and use them, you quickly notice that the product, user interface, and general user experience is just far below the two mentioned. As their corresponding icons told you even before you downloaded them.
Look closely and they to deduce what to expect from this metronome App:
They represent the best designed set of icons for their Apps – Weightbot, Convertbot, Pastebot and Calcbot. Pixel perfect execution, excellent color schemes, visual storytelling enabling you to instantly recognize which Bot you are about to launch. Apps themselves represent the best of the best of custom iOS interface, paired with flawless animations, sounds and interface logic.
Twitter (formerly Tweetie 2)
One would foolishly think that placing a logo of a product onto an icon is a simple task, but seeing many similar attempts on App Store go horribly wrong, do not take lightly this supreme icon. Twitter logo itself contains no gradients, it is pure white. Paired with subtle drop shadow effect, classy background and icon gloss it mimics the look of default iOS App icons telling you what to expect inside. The best user interface of all Twitter Apps was created from default iOS interface elements and it seamlessly flows as you use the App.
Flawless execution of the icon hints the flawless execution of Things as well. As Twitter, it is built from default iOS elements with just a few custom elements. It is by far the simplest to use to-do App unburdened by heavy graphics and unnecessary interface elements.
Both Twitter and Things feel natural and native, feel like a part of operating system. The learning curve to use them is non-existent; from the first launch you can just use them. There are no distractions while using them, no cluttering graphical elements, no burdening screens.
Another excellent icon followed by an excellent App. Battleships is a minimalistic puzzle game somewhat similar to Sudoku. What is interesting in Battleships is that the game does not display a single image of an actual (battle)ship anywhere. Yet, playing the game there is a constant feeling of real ships being commanded and being sunk. The game does that by navy-blue color and immersion via sound and music, and by having such a wonderful icon that puts your mind into thinking you are a captain of a ship from the moment you tap it. Most likely, if the game icon was something different the battleship feeling would be gone.
Icon = App
There are many icons being rendered on screens every day across the Apple App Store, iPhone, iPod and iPad screens. By observing icons users can quickly deduce what to expect from the App itself. Fine polish and supreme execution of an App's Icon are vital!